National Hurricane Center says Laura has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane
Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake named
Minnesota governor Tim Walz says National Guard to be deployed in Minneapolis over protests
NHC downgrades Hurricane Laura to a Catgory 3 storm with 120mph
More than 100,000 homes and businesses without power in Texas and Louisiana – report
As it gets increasingly light we are beginning to get video clips and still images of the damage left behind.
The Capital One Tower, the second-tallest building in Lake Charles, appears to have suffered extensive damage to the windows.
There’s footage here of what is said to be a partially collapsed Motel 6 in Lake Charles.
Please note that the Guardian has not independently verified these clips.
It’s not just the wind and rain and associated flooding that is a life-threatening risk with Hurricane Laura. As the largest storm to hit the Louisiana coast for 164 years, it will also bring with a storm surge that will cause severe flooding that can reach quite far inland.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham has been on CNN this morning, and in this clip you can see him explaining why it may take another 24 hours before the full extent of the storm surge reveals itself.
Louisiana Lt. Governor Bill Nungesse has been on Good Morning America with a very bleak assessment of the survival chances of people near the coast who did not evacuate. He said:
We know anyone that stayed that’s close to the coast, we’ve got to pray for them, because looking at the storm surge, there would be little chance of survival. We’ve heard that from 50 to 150 people may have stayed behind to ride this out. In Holly Beach, where they raised homes 15 feet after [2005’s Hurricane] Rita, and many thought that might be safe, that would not survive this tidal surge. We’re hopeful most people got out, but as soon as it’s safe for the first responders to get in there, we’re hopeful that we don’t find people that didn’t make it.
He was unable to say when first responders could move in, only that it needed to be lighter and for the wind to drop further.
National Hurricane Center says Laura has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane
The National Hurricane Center says Laura has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane as it moves deeper inland over Louisiana.
That’s no longer a major hurricane but it still has extremely dangerous maximum sustained winds of 110mph (175 kph), nearly five hours after striking the coast and pushing what forecasters called an unsurvivable storm surge miles inland.
Forecasters say it’s centered about 45 miles (70 kilometers) north-northwest of Lake Charles and moving north at 15 mph (24 kph).
Laura’s eye hit a stretch of Louisiana near the Texas state line early Thursday as a Category 4. It is the most powerful storm recorded to hit the state in 164 years.
Here’s a recent radar image of the storm on the move.
Pictures which claim to show the damage being left behind in the storm’s wake are beginning to be posted on social media.
Here’s a picture of one of the buildings that has been damaged in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
A clip of the building during the height of the storm earlier had been widely shared on social media.
As mentioned earlier, one of the worrying aspects about Hurricane Laura is that it impacts Louisiana and other southern states while they are also in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.
Axios, this morning though, have some slightly more optimistic Covid-19 numbers. They note that, according to their figures:
New coronavirus infections fell by almost 15% over the past week, continuing a steady downward trend. The US is averaging roughly 41,700 new confirmed cases per day, down from about 49,000 per day last week and 65,000 per day at the height of the summer outbreak.
Louisiana is one of 20 states where the pace of new infections fell, however, neighboring Mississippi is still seeing a steady 20% rise.
Read it here: Axios – Change in new COVID-19 cases in the past week
As Hurricane Laura has weakened slightly, the national weather service in Houston has been able to relax slightly some of the warnings that were in place, and has reduced the scope of the areas facing southeast Texas.
That’s also likely to free up some resources to help in Louisiana. The top government official in Harris County, Texas, Judge Lina Hidalgo, told MSNBC in a phone interview “Now that we are watching with horror how it is impacting our neighbors to the east, our approach turns to aid.”
Hidalgo told MSNBC that first responders from all over the country are in the county to assist with the storm, and they are now ready to provide any assistance needed in Louisiana.
Back to Hurricane Laura, here’s a map of the expected trajectory of the storm, with an indication of when we might expect areas to be affected.
While on the subject of racial justice, we have a great piece this morning where Oliver Laughland has spoken to Martin and Bernice King about their late father Martin Luther King Jr, discussing Black Lives Matter, their ongoing grief and the upcoming March on Washington:
Bernice’s elder brother, Martin Luther King III, was 10 at the time his father was killed. In June this year, he bowed his head in front of Floyd’s golden casket during a memorial service. He also reflects on the children left behind. “When you are grieving, you appreciate all the love that the world provides for you,” he says from his living room in Atlanta, in front of a large image of his mother, Coretta Scott King. “But, at some point, most people go back to their homes and you’re all alone, grieving by yourself. And you have to figure out how to navigate through the terrible pain.”
King’s children have become used to the rewriting of their father’s history. Since his death, he has been repositioned in the mainstream American imagination as a unifying figure.
“I think most people focus on ‘I have a dream’ and they don’t even focus on the entire speech,” says Martin. “You know, what got him killed was not talking about riding in the front of buses. He talked about a living wage … he talked about a radical redistribution of wealth, which definitely was frightening to those pursuing money.
“But the message has been sanitised by mainstream media, because if you keep him in that sanitised version then you never realise the part of him that talked about a revolution of values. The irony of it is here we are today and we still need a revolution of values.”
Bernice says: “Anyone who talks about being a transformed nonconformist; anyone who talks about it being your duty to disobey unjust laws; anybody who talks about a nation that continues to spend millions and millions more on military defence over programmes of social uplift [as one] approaching spiritual death: that’s extremely radical to me.”
It’s very moving. Read it here: ‘He was extremely radical’: MLK’s children on their father’s life and George Floyd’s death
Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake named
Away from the hurricane for a minute, there’s been a development in the story of the shooting of Jacob Blake at the weekend in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The police officer caught on video firing seven times into Blake’s back at almost point-blank range has been named as Rusten Sheskey.
A statement from the Wisconsin Department of Justice identifying Sheskey raised as many questions as it answered, as it said a knife was also recovered from the driver’s side floor of the car where Blake was apparently reaching when he was shot.
“During the incident, officers attempted to arrest Jacob S Blake, age 29. Law enforcement deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr Blake, however the taser was not successful in stopping Mr Blake.”
“Mr Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward. While holding onto Mr Blake’s shirt, officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon seven times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr Blake’s back.
“During the investigation following the initial incident, Mr Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession. Division of criminal investigation agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr Blake’s vehicle. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons.”
Among issues that remain unclear is when Blake told officers he had a knife and why police reacted with such force amid what was essentially a domestic incident.
The naming of Sheskey came a few hours after police announced the arrest of a white teenager after two people were shot dead during the third night of protests in Kenosha. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, was taken into custody in Illinois on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide.
Earlier this year, in preparation for what was thought to be a bad coming hurricane season, our environment reporter Oliver Milman prepared this briefing for us, asking are hurricanes getting stronger – and is climate breakdown to blame?
On the question of whether hurricanes are getting worse, he wrote:
While the overall number of hurricanes has remained roughly the same in recent decades, there is evidence they are intensifying more quickly, resulting in a greater number of the most severe category four and five storms.
The proportion of tropical storms that rapidly strengthen into powerful hurricanes has tripled over the past 30 years, according to recent research. A swift increase in pace over a 24-hour period makes hurricanes less predictable, despite improving hurricane forecasting systems, and more likely to cause widespread damage.
And as for the cause?
There is growing evidence that the warming of the atmosphere and upper ocean, due to human activity such as burning fossil fuels, is making conditions ripe for fiercer, more destructive hurricanes.
“The past few years have been highly unusual, such as Irma staying strong for so long, or the hurricane in Mozambique that dumped so much rain,” says Kossin. “All of these things are linked to a warming atmosphere. If you warm things up, over time you will get stronger storms.”
Climate breakdown is tinkering with hurricanes in a variety of ways. More moisture in the air means more rain, while storms are intensifying more quickly but often stalling once they hit land, resulting in torrential downpours that cause horrendous flooding.
Rising sea levels are aiding storm surge whipped up by hurricanes – one study found that Hurricane Sandy in 2012 probably wouldn’t have inundated lower Manhattan if it occurred a century previously because the sea was a foot lower then. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the maximum intensity of hurricanes will increase by about 5% this century.
Here’s the latest map from the Weather Channel showing the extent of the areas in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas that are in Hurricane Laura’s path.
It is inevitable that how the federal and state governments respond to a natural disaster like Hurricane Laura will quite quickly become political. Already doing the rounds on social media is this piece from Rolling Stone from late last night which claims “Trump looted $44 Billion FEMA’s disaster relief fund in the middle of a record-setting hurricane season”. Tessa Stuart writes:
Laura could be one of the most destructive Gulf hurricanes on record. It’s particularly bad timing considering that, less than three weeks ago, instead of working with Congress to craft comprehensive legislation to address the ongoing crisis and deliver desperately-needed aid, President Trump looted FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to the tune of $44 billion — authorizing the agency to pay for a $300 per week supplement to regular unemployment benefits.
I wonder if it would be clearer if we say: The $300 a week benefit supplement is similar to the $600 one that was included in the CARES Act passed at the start of the pandemic. An extension of that $600 benefit was included in second relief package that the House has already approved, but that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t hold a vote on. because the Senate won’t sign off on the House bill and Trump didn’t work with lawmakers to reach a compromise, the unemployment supplement isn’t coming from money appropriated by Congress. It’s coming from the government account meant to cover natural disasters like the one presently bearing down on Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Expect more of this as the extent of the damage from Hurricane Laura becomes clearer.
Just in cases residents weren’t taking evacuation orders seriously yesterday, the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office posted their list of areas facing mandatory evacuation on Facebook yesterday with the following warning:
Those choosing to stay and face this very dangerous storm must understand that rescue efforts cannot and will not begin until after storm and surge has passed and it is safe to do so. Please evacuate and if you choose to stay and we can’t get to you, write your name, address, social security number and next of kin and put it a ziplock bag in your pocket. Praying that it does not come to this! Expecting the worse but praying for the best. Be Safe and God Bless!!
Here’s the latest from the National Hurricane Center on what can be expected from Hurricane Laura:
- Hurricane Laura has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with top winds of 120 mph (195 kph) a few hours after making landfall.
- It’s centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north-northwest of Lake Charles and moving north at 15 mph (24 kph). Hurricane-force winds and damaging wind gusts are spreading well inland into parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana.
- The NHC expect an unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves to cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes.
- Forecasters predict the highest surge, up to 20 feet, along a stretch of Louisiana coastline that includes Johnson Bayou and the towns of Holly Beach and Cameron.
- Forecasters say this surge could penetrate up to 40 miles inland from the immediate coastline, and flood waters won’t fully recede for days.